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Ruisdael, View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds

Video transcript

we're in the Moritz house in The Hague in the Netherlands and we're looking at probably the most famous painting by Jakob on Roy Stowe this is a landscape of the city of Haarlem and it's recognizably Harlem because of the Church of Saint Bavo that rises above the skyline but most of the painting is cloud it is a landscape a new type of painting in the 17th century in Holland but in a way I wish this was called a skyscape there is a long tradition of landscape you can find some landscapes from the ancient world you can find some early examples in the Renaissance but they're almost always subsidiary to something else and here we have a landscape that is very much about this place is a portrait of a city a portrait of someone's love of a city built into these portraits of a place is the artist's feeling an attachment we have Vermeer painting Delft where he lived most of his life we have von Rosedale painting a Harlem where he lived at least one art historian has suggested that this may have been commissioned by the person who owned linen works that we see in the foreground if you look closely those are not the fields of a farm in the foreground but rather their broad areas where linen is laid out so that the Sun can bleach it but this is a partly cloudy day and the Sun is only partially reaching that in fact Roy steel has effectively used both light and shadow to draw our eye back into the depth of the landscape there are alternating planes of light and dark we start in the very foreground in shadow we move to those bleaching fields which are in the sunlight they have another area of shadow and then other areas sunshine where we see an open field and then shade and then light and then the church in the distance and this helps our eye to move into space and to travel through the landscape and to do it slowly and delete our eye lovingly through the space now Holland is a very flat country so one might wonder where the artists is standing to have this great perspective but if you look carefully at the very four ground between the grasses you can just make out that that sand and this is likely a dune that is giving him this kind of elevation well he's probably sketched outside we're so used to thinking about artists painting outside with tubes of paint but this was likely constructed in the studio 70% of this canvas is given over to the sky to these beautiful billowing clouds and to the sense that everything is in motion right and it's a very specific landscape in Italy at this time the Italian painters are and French painters to our painting idealized classicizing landscapes where it's always perfectly sunny as always the spring and here we have a sense of whether time specificity that makes this town enduring even as time passes even as those clouds go by even as the dappled light changes on the landscape and that change is such a hallmark of this historical moment stylistically we call the Baroque the 17th century where a kind of dynamism even within the static landscape is brought to the foreground that's right even within portraits we get a sense of the dynamic of movement even in genre scenes there's this interest in things that are in process and we certainly have that here in this beautiful landscape by Royce Dale